Review: DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (1995) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


In conjunction for the upcoming release of A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD this week (review coming soon!), here is the third installment of DIE HARD review.


Looking back at the first two DIE HARD movies, you realize that John McClane's (Bruce Willis) adventures have expanded from the first movie's confined space of a high-rise building to the first sequel's larger space of an airport. In this third installment, creatively titled as DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, the space is now widened to New York City. While the familiar sense of claustrophobic tension is getting lesser this time around, fans will be delighted that original DIE HARD director John McTiernan made an exceptional comeback to the franchise he first started back in 1988. The good news is, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is marginally better and more engaging than the slightly lackluster DIE HARD 2 (1990). But like DIE HARD 2, the overall execution isn't as tightly focused as the original movie.

In DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, John McClane is now suffering from hard times. After moving back to New York City, he has broke up with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia, not returning this time), developed a drinking problem and also currently under suspension from NYPD. But he is forced to get back into action when a mysterious terrorist named Simon (Jeremy Irons) demands him to play a series of riddle games called "Simon Says". Every time John is given an instruction, he must accomplished the task on a specific time or Simon will blow up something in a public area. Along the way, John has unexpectedly partnered with a shop owner named Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), who saves him from a street gang at Harlem. John drags Zeus to help him locate where Simon might be planting the next bombs, while playing cat-and-mouse game that gradually turns into a wild goose chase.

The first hour of the movie is especially well-paced and breathtaking. This is where you almost thought that McTiernan has truly captured the perfect essence of the original DIE HARD. Each successive scenes are well-edited with great precision, while the action are simply exhilarating. Among the most spectacular action set piece ever displayed in the DIE HARD movies are the thrilling car chase through the congested streets of New York City that rivals THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) and the suspenseful scene involving an exploding subway train.

But the pacing grows erratic once the second half kicks off with the proper introduction of Simon. It's not that the movie has fallen apart, but with such perfect momentum McTiernan has directed well in the first hour, you would naturally expect consistency right until the end.

Despite the flaws, the movie remains entertaining enough to keep you hooked on the screen. Personally, I thought Jonathan Hensleigh's script is the most fascinating bunch if compared with the first two DIE HARD movies. Yes, the overall story does feel more implausible than ever before, but it's hard to deny the way Hensleigh elaborates his story like a magician pulls out a white rabbit out of his hat. This is especially interesting when a double twist is revealed halfway surrounding Simon's misdirection as well as his true intention of his elaborate game of riddles. Here's an interesting trivia about Jonathan Hensleigh's script: It was originally called SIMON SAYS and believe it or not, it was first considered as the basis for LETHAL WEAPON 4 (which explains the buddy-movie factor here) before it gradually retooled specifically into DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE.

As for the cast, Bruce Willis is typically fun to watch for as the wisecracking John McClane. Samuel L. Jackson is terrific as Zeus, while Jeremy Irons is memorable as the cunning Simon. No doubt Irons is the best villain ever seen since Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber in DIE HARD.

In addition to the earlier trivia surrounding Jonathan Hensleigh's original script, the theatrical ending in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is actually reshoot at the last minute after the original ending is being rejected by the studio. Apparently, the original ending sees Simon escaped to Europe but McClane manages to track him down and play a game of "McClane Says" with a Chinese rocket launcher (You can check out the alternate ending here).

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